Review: What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

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Publication: May 8th 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages:  368 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Adult, Adult Fiction
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

“Tamed. A word for a wild girl made obedient. A word for a hawk with clipped wings, a declawed tiger. A word that made me safe,” (Fine 245).

This is the book I’ve been waiting for. I wouldn’t say I’ve been in a reading slump the past few months, but I’ve read more blah books than good books. Sure the good books are there, but it’s maybe one book that really hooks me a month with the other dragging by. Not bad per se, but forgettable. Entertaining at the time but not in the long run. 

I’d wanted to read What Should Be Wild for quite a while and moved it up in my TBR because I was going on holidays and couldn’t renew it at the library (So many people want to read this book that I couldn’t give myself extra time too!). So I read this book quicker than I would have liked with my limited timeline, but even if I didn’t have a timeline I know I would have read this book quickly because I basically devoured it.

What Should Be Wild follows teenaged Maisie Cothay who is cursed with the literal touch of death and life. Having killed her mother in the womb, Maisie’s father soon learns that his strange little girl can both kill and bring things to life with a touch of her skin, from wooden shelves to the grass she steps on to animals and humans. Maisie’s father, a well-known anthropologist, puts his daughter through scientific tests throughout their lives to study Maisie’s strange condition and to see if it holds some connection to the missing Blakely women on Maisie’s mother’s side. But one day Maisie’s father goes missing, and she must go on a journey to find him, even if it means entering the mysterious wood outside her house that her father has always told her to stay away from.

The story is fairly short and to the point. We get Maisie’s history, as well as the history of the past cursed Blakely women, each chapter interspersed so that reader’s learn a lot of information that will come back later without being overwhelmed. It’s powerful, feminist as heck, and perfectly describes the feelings of shame, that searching for power that I’m sure many women have felt.

And yes, Maisie can be annoying at times and frustratingly naive, but she is a character who has never ventured very far outside of her Gothic manor, who has only had maybe four steady companions in her life, so I can forgive her for that.

Fine also does a fantastic job of balancing the darkness and the humour of her debut perfectly, a dark humour that many books miss the mark on. And I loved that Fine chose to make her novel a modern Gothic, since Gothic literature is one of my favourites, but hard to come across in modern literature. I hope Fine’s debut makes a comeback for the genre because so much of it’s aspects and metaphors can be explored in modern day (and with feminism!)! And I absolutely loved magical realism and Fine’s work reminds me that I need to look more into this genre.

Again, What Should Be Wild is everything I could have dreamed it would be. Fine creates a metaphor for womanhood in a modern Gothic and magical realism setting and manages to weave it all together so beautifully that it all seems natural. This book is every fairy tale I’ve ever loved, the feminist story I’ve been looking for, the kind of novel I want to write one day.  It’s inspiring, unforgettable, and a book that will stay with me for a long long time.

Favourite quotes:

“Nothing promises revival like a fairy tale,” (Fine 35).

“Life is not some riddle to be solved. The things that matter most cannot be won, cannot be tricked. They won’t be studied, never fully understood. There are no rules to things, you realize,” (Fine 346).

“You think because you name it and you tell it, it becomes? A story is a present, tied with ribbon and a wish. Real things aren’t so easy. Choices not so black and white,” (Fine 346).

If you liked What Should Be Wild you’ll probably like:

  • Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves
  • The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stievater
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